Part one of a two-part series, explores the life of a Soldier and a place named in his honor
WAIANAE, Hawaii - The gentle waves and pristine white sandy beach, combed by the soft winds and Hawaiian scents of Oahu's sunny Leeward coast, were integral parts of one young Soldier's upbringing.
However, thoughts of Pokai Bay, here, would have been a startling contrast to the reality of the infamous Battle at Heartbreak Ridge taking place in the hills of North Korea.
Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau must have understood the consequences of his decision that fateful day, Sept. 17, 1951, in Korea.
The Herbert K. Pililaau Army Recreation Center (PARC), in Waianae, now serves as a reminder not only of one Soldier's selfless gallantry, but also of a gentler, old Hawaii, reflecting the community where a Medal of Honor recipient was born and raised.
Pililaau was only a teenager during World War II when the current recreational area located alongside Pokai Bay was used as an amphibious vehicle landing and training area.
Described by family and friends as a quiet, young man who studied classical music, his legacy, however, is inextricably linked to the valor demonstrated in North Korea, shortly before his 23rd birthday.
His Medal of Honor citation provides details: "While attempting to hold a key location, Pililaau's 23rd Infantry platoon was nearly overrun by repeated enemy attack, and his unit was ordered to withdraw.
"Volunteering to stay behind and provide cover, the young Pililaau fired his weapons and threw his grenades until his ammunition exhausted. He continued to fight with a trench knife and bare fists until finally sustaining mortal wounds.
"When his position was retaken, more than 40 enemy dead were counted in the area he defended."
The quiet young man with the kind, unassuming face was posthumously recognized by the U.S. Congress with the Medal of Honor, June 18. His parents were presented the citation by President Harry Truman.
The scope of Pililaau's legacy ranges from a Waianae park to a Makua Military Reservation live-fire training range, to a Naval Strategic Sealift ship, the USNS Pililaau, all bearing his name.
PARC, located 18 miles from Schofield Barracks, is now a popular getaway, featuring 39 beachfront rental cabins, along with meeting facilities for active duty, retirees, Department of Defense and federal employees.
Originally called Waianae Army Recreation Center, the facility was officially renamed Herbert K. Pililaau Army Recreation Center in December 2003.
The importance of PARC, as a Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR) facility is particularly valued.
"There is no resort setting on the island of Oahu that captures the beauty of Hawaii the way Pililaau Army Recreation Center does," said Shelly Leslie, PARC general manager.
Day trips to PARC offer some of the most pristine beaches in the islands, with a variety of beach and ocean activities fully supported by on-site equipment rentals.
A lounge and cafAfA with an expansive lanai, offers dinner service, seven days a week, and a memorable location for enjoying the end of the day.
"The sunsets here are breathtaking," Leslie added.
Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, encourages Soldiers and family members to plan a visit.
"We are making a commitment and a significant investment in money to ensure the Pililaau Army Recreation Center provides a dedicated and special Hawaii experience. We want our Soldiers and family members to embrace this spot, a location that blends Hawaiiana and Army values, embodied so well by the life and sacrifice of Pfc. Pililaau," said Margotta.
For more information or for reservations, visit the Web site <a href="http:// www.mwrarmyhawaii.com">www.mwrarmyhawaii.com</a>.
(Editor's Note: Part 2 of this series will feature the Pililaau Army Recreation Center luau, lodging and activities that make PARC more than a weekend destination.)